How to Make Your Business a ‘Best Company to Work For’

christinegatuiruia Human Resources, Issue 07 - Sept/ Oct 2013 Leave a Comment

National Instruments is one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.” VP of HR Mark Finger reveals why.

Cooper Consulting Partners

By Christine Gatuiria

Mark Finger moved to Austin, Texas, from his home in Minnesota following a merger at his first company. At the time he envisioned a short stay in the Lone Star State, but then National Instruments (NI) recruited him in 1995 and he has continued to call Texas’ state capital home since. Finger today serves as the company’s Vice President of Human Resources (HR) and considers himself a fully fledged Austinite.

“Austin is a great town, Finger said, “[and] NI is a great company.”

100-Year Plan

NI, founded in 1976, designs and manufactures test and measurement tools for engineers and scientists. Finger originally was brought in to align the company’s HR functions with its rapid pace of growth. Because he had the requisite experience from working with a larger company earlier in his career, Finger quickly implemented recruitment and hiring procedures that significantly raised the company’s people advantage.

As stated in NI’s 100-year plan, the greatest and most sustainable long-term competitive advantage for the company is its culture and employees, and it is clear that Finger has been instrumental to the success of this strategy. He started out with a team of six in the HR department, managing approximately 1,200 employees. NI has since grown to almost 7,000 employees worldwide, and overall staff satisfaction and retention remain high. And then there are the awards.


In January 2013, Fortune magazine named NI among the nation’s 100 Best Companies USA for the fourteenth consecutive year. The company also has been recognized among the World’s Top 25 Multinational Workplaces and ranked by the Great Place to Work Institute as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in China, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Mexico and the U.K.

These achievements are a testament to the strength of Finger’s leadership in developing a pipeline of productive people who work hard and stay loyal. The company maintains a comprehensive internship program and recruits candidates with high GPAs, selecting those who ace the technical and behavioral interviews and demonstrate strong collaborative, entrepreneurial and “get-along” skills. NI’s corporate culture is palpable and enduring, and makes perfect business sense under the lens of one of Finger’s favorite quotes by Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

"Paint the vision, then get out of the way"           At NI, we host a quarterly business discussion to communicate openly and honestly with our employees about the state of the business and happenings around NI. Members of leadership and I deliver this content to our managers who then turn around and deliver this information to their teams. We trust and empower managers to be stewards of the business and share information effectively with their teams. Managers expect this predictable vehicle of communication and we constantly solicit feedback to improve upon the process.  One of the Team

“We hire the best and brightest, and grow our talent from a bottom-up approach,” Finger said. “We differentiate ourselves as more of a family.” NI works hard to balance the needs of employees, shareholders, customers and suppliers, and Finger readily inserts himself in the midst of this balancing act all every day.

He takes pride in maintaining approachability and knows his staff, building trust with employees through frequent one-on-one conversations. Finger does not sit behind a mahogany desk in a corner office. In fact, none of NI’s executives do; they work in cubicles just like the rest of the employees.

The overall culture at the company revolves around high levels of mutual trust and open lines of communication. Employees are free to ask questions, proffer ideas and challenge management decisions. NI does not need anonymous suggestion boxes to gauge the needs of their people. “I get my data pretty raw,” Finger said.

Driving Destiny

Finger’s HR accomplishments at NI are evidence of his strengths in ideation and strategic planning. He explains that he generates a lot of ideas and trusts his team to implement them and get the job done.

“I tend to paint the vision and establish the goal, and then I stay out of the way,” Finger said. One of his current challenges is keeping up with globalization. NI has a presence in 50 countries, and it is no easy feat trying to keep up with the expectations and growing needs of all employees.

“We’ve come a long way,” Finger acknowledged, “but there is still much to do.”

It is obvious in his words and actions that Finger loves his work, his people and his company. In a state where everything is bigger, he is also an advocate of community service and serves as Board Chair for Goodwill Industries of Central Texas.

Based on his extensive experience in human behavior and resource management, Finger urges all employees to take risks and to dare to think differently. Those who are hesitant to seek opportunity are likely to miss it, Finger said, adding “You control your own destiny far more than you realize.”

Health & Wellness initiatives:  We have great medical coverage and we realized that with all that is happening with healthcare reform, the only way we could sustain this coverage was to get our employees healthier. We have an on-site medical clinic and fitness center in addition to walking trails, volleyball and basketball courts, and programs including smoking cessation and healthy eating every day. For many of our A-student employees, the first time they ever got a C was on their health risk assessment. We strongly incentivize our employees to get a health risk assessment so they can better understand their health and areas for improvement. We're all in this together and we have to get healthier - its a win-win for everyone and our employees have really stepped up to the plate.

Christina Gatuiria is a freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO

Mark's Key Partners:
Cooper Consulting Partners (Health Management Consulting) | Lockton (Benefits Provider) | Take Care Medical / Walgreens

Comments, thoughts, feedback?